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Awesome arts administrator Barbara Garber, the City Studio Assistant Director at the San Francisco Art Institute, shared her “Resources for Teaching Artists” with me recently and it’s information worth passing along as I know many artists teach or will think about teaching at some point in their creative careers.

I’ve linked directly to some of the sites noted in her guide.

On Career Development:

College Art Association

The National Art Education Association

The Artist Help Network

Arts Resource Network

Artist’s Professional Toolbox

For Job Listings:

Chronicle for Higher Education

Job Bank

National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture

Related Organizations:

Teaching Artist Source

The Association of Teaching Artists

State/Regional Arts Agencies:

Alameda County Office of Education

San Francisco Arts Commission

California Arts Council

California Alliance for Arts Education

Check these out if you are a fan of arts in education as they lead to a wealth of information.  Do you have a resource to add to this list?


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After attending several workshops and listening to webinars about developing a social media strategy and just scratching my head, I finally began to understand. Initially, like any small business owner, I was reluctant to add things to my to-do list, unless I had some way to measure the returns. Especially something like social media which involves spending time on the Internet, which I like to do and might find distracting. Once I could understand that networking online was really very similar to networking at events, then I knew what to do.

My notes are so simple, that I smile every time I see them.  But they remind me of what to do and put me in a good mood which helps:

  • It’s a party.
  • You go to the party daily.
  • You stay for at least 1/2 an hour.

Here’s what you like to do at the party:

  1. Update your status bars on LinkedIn and Facebook (personal network and business fan page).
  2. Talk to the people you find most interesting. This could mean commenting on favorite blogs from a list of 10 to check at least once a week.  On twitter, it means responding to and/or retweeting posts that attract your attention.
  3. Browse around other blogs, just looking and commenting as you see fit.  Twitter is a great place to find links to interesting blog posts, especially since you are already following people with similar interests.
  4. Ask and answer questions.  You might belong to a LinkedIn group with an interesting discussion thread. Or it could be a yahoogroup where members are posing questions and sharing referrals. Or a social site like Citymommy where members are posting links and sharing information.  Like most relationships, the more love you give, the more love you get.
  5. Research deeper as needed.  Take a little extra time now and then to really delve into a topic or check out the people you are meeting online.  What does their online presence reveal about them? Do you want to bookmark them for future reference or subscribe to their e-newsletter for more information on an on-going basis?  It’s all good networking and you will find some great resources, both people and information, that you can share.
  6. Post to your own blog and share a link to it on twitter, Linkedin, and your facebook fan page.  All three sites can do this automatically from your blog.
  7. Finally, track and measure the results.  What do you want to measure? Google analytics will track traffic to your web-site which is a good place to start.  Your blog can track the number of visits (besides your own!) or you might use the number of comments as another measure of engagement.

What do you like to do at the online party?

Is cold-calling still an effective technique for reaching potential clients? I’ve been asking myself and people in my network this question for awhile about whether or not it made sense to try calling potential clients directly. For the most part, I accepted the answer I heard from more than a few people: don’t call, I don’t have time to talk to you. Reach me through email and my online networks and if I’m interested, I will contact you.

This was an easy answer to accept because it’s what I would say too. What do I do when someone I don’t know calls me up to sell something?  Exactly.  I try to firmly and politely get them off the phone as soon as possible so I can get back to what I was doing before I was so rudely interrupted.  This was my airtight case for not calling potential clients unless I had a lead or a referral or anything that would warm up my reason for calling.  I really didn’t want to be the person on the other end of the line, getting rejected.

How could I get over that fear? I accepted the challenge on a job for someone else. I called up 200 people and experienced every shade of gray on the scale between no answer to getting an appointment scheduled. Here’s what I learned:

1.  Have a script to follow loosely. I stumbled through reading it the first few calls and am grateful for the patience of the people who still listened on the other end of the line. Once I warmed up, I could improvise but still convey the same message, only more naturally and less like a voice on an answering machine.

2. It really does help if you smile while you are talking on the phone even if nobody else can see you.  It improves your own attitude and warms up your voice. The listener can hear that smile.

3. Most people are very polite about expressing their lack of interest. Thank goodness! It’s not personal. Move on to the next call.

4. Some people don’t understand your message in the way that you intend. It’s so tempting to try to explain what you really meant.  Any clarification I tried to offer did not change the refusal and in some cases only irritated the recipient of my call.  Better luck next time and move on to the next call.

5. It really helps to offer an incentive. What will they get for their time? Is there some advice or tip that will save their time or help them out in their business, even if they don’t engage your services? The more you show your respect for their time, the better reception you’ll get.

6. That said, keep it brief and deliver your message about the value of your services as succinctly as possible. Practice makes perfect and a script helps.

7. Keep track of your results. A simple table with the name of the contact, the name of the company, and the phone number will do with columns for the response (no answer, refused, or scheduled) and another column for the appointment time (and additional contact information) as needed.

8. Some people are interested! After calling a list of 200 names, I was able to schedule 4 appointments for my client.

Is that effective? For a small business, like myself, that’s a lot of time to spend on the phone, not connecting. It all depends on what happens with the 4 sales calls. If they result in large or long-term contracts, it will be worth the clients’ investment in me and my time. But is it enough of an incentive to motivate me to start calling potential clients? What do you think about making or receiving such calls?

How do you build trust in a working relationship with another professional that you do not meet in person?  The simple answer is that trust is like love: you have to give it to get it.  And that can be a little tricky over the Internet, can’t it?

1) Thanks to Facebook and the fun of re-connecting with friends online, I got over my own reluctance to share personal and public information.  Fortunately, I learned the lesson way back in 8th grade that you should never put anything in writing while passing notes in class that you don’t want everyone to read.  Same rules apply on the Internet.  But you probably already know that from using email in a professional capacity.   So comfort in sharing personal and public information online would be a good first step to building trust into an online working relationship.

2) Social media applications like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter seem to replicate the natural way people get to know one another offline by using word-of-mouth and referrals.  So I can meet friends of friends, the people I already know and trust, and get to know their friends too.  I can follow my own interests and curiosity to discover the people I find interesting, appealing, and trustworthy.  In doing so, I’ve noticed trust-turnoffs such as spamminess, too much direct sales effort, and sometimes, just too much whether it be personal information or number of postings.  It’s a lot like going to a party and meeting other people who are temperamentally similar.  I tend to meet one or two people that aren’t about being the center of attention and are content with longer conversations with fewer people.  You might call that reserved.  Because relationships may develop more slowly this way, I find that I trust people the longer I have known them (and the amount of time that passes in which they have done nothing untrustworthy).

3) “Trust, but verify” is good advice to follow.  In other words, I can assume that the people I meet to do business with online are trustworthy.  But I might check out their online presence, recommendations, profiles, etc. to see if it matches their representation of their services.  Yelp and online networking resources are a great way to verify someone in terms of trustworthiness.  Calling and checking references works too.  Phone consultations are a great opportunity for the client and the service provider both to verify that the person lives up to their online presence.

4) And I recommend starting out slowly, trusting someone enough to buy a small package of services, as a trial before committing to a longer term working relationship.  Many virtual assistants have developed protective policies proactively, such as payment in advance or a retainer for a fixed amount of hours.  I completely understand the need for these boundaries and clear policies in writing for both parties before engaging in the working relationship.  But as a consumer, I want to see an easy and clear exit door for me, just in case things don’t work out.  The best virtual assistants write their working agreements with the client in mind too so that both the client and the service provider feel that the terms have been clearly communicated for the benefit of both parties.

6) And finally, trust is a work in progress.  Both parties learn as they go how to best communicate, satisfy deadlines, and work requirements.  Underpromise and overdeliver is the advice you’ll hear over and over.  Enough said.  Trust in a working relationship is built on communication and doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it.  But do give it time.  Just as it takes awhile to really get to know someone, it will take 3-6 months of working together to build the foundation of a trusting relationship.

What have you found essential for building trust in your online professional relationships?

A workshop on “The Success Process” earlier this week still has me thinking.  Speaker Charlotte Woods, of Tell It To Your Face, defined being present as being here now, in the moment, focussed and engaged.  She also suggested that being present with clients can be a competitive edge.  Love it!  The more we really listen and focus on what clients need, the better able we are to address those needs.

But wait, my business is conducted online which means that I am never physically present with clients because I work from my own office and communicate with clients over the Internet and on the phone.  So I challenged myself to think of ways that I can be more present with clients without actually being there face-to-face.  Here’s how to be more “present” when working with clients online.

1. Include the personal details in your professional online presence.  While it’s important to appear professional and capable, don’t neglect to include some of those personal details that will individualize you and set you apart as a real person and not just a website with auto-responders.  A blog about business is an excellent place to add this real dimension about yourself to your business practice.  Your “about” page or profile page on your website is another excellent opportunity to share something of the real person behind the website. Include a photograph of yourself and your staff and tell the story of just how you got here and what you think about doing this business.

2. Be responsive.  Dedicate the time in your schedule to return emails and phone calls in a timely manner no matter how busy you will get because you will get busy and feel like you don’t have time to take care of it all.  Clients will appreciate the regular contact and it will strengthen your connection.

3. Be realistic about your limits up front.  In order to be real and to be present with your clients, you can’t promise them everything like 24/7 access to you personally because that is not going to work out in the long run.  Let clients know ahead of time when you are available for calls and emails on a regular basis and what your RUSH or urgent policies are.  Managing your clients’ expectations proactively will serve to develop trust between you and your client.

4. Be reliable.  It almost goes without saying that you should do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it.  I’ve heard the advice “under promise and over deliver” before and will repeat it here without much ado.  Life will happen and the more you communicate about the bumps along the way that cause delays, the more your client will be prepared and adjust his or her expectations.  I find it better to pad my schedule with some contingency time on projects and to be pleasantly surprised when I finish ahead of schedule rather than the other way around.

5. Really listen.  Sometimes I know my business so well and what the client needs that I am tempted to jump right into talking about the solutions I can offer.  It’s better when I clear my own mind of assumptions and my expectations and just listen to their story.  There will be plenty of time afterwards to craft a solution that fits their needs.  I always take notes and slow down to write what I am hearing so that I can really concentrate on what’s being said.  The bonus is that I also have a written record to refer to when I approach the next step.

6. Put it in writing.  Just providing a short list of what you said you will do next in an email to the client supports the verbal exchange and offers an early opportunity to clarify the communication.  It also shows that you were listening and how you have organized yourself to present a solution.  It can also become a basis for a more formal and essential working agreement or contract for the job which benefits both the client and yourself.

In fact some of the advantages of working online with clients are the very things that allow be to be more present.  I manage my own time and schedule so I know when and how to focus on my clients and their needs.  I don’t have to physically be there which means that I am not rushing to get there, finding parking, and thinking about where I am going next.  I can relax a bit and bring my focussed attention to the problem at hand.  And I really enjoy working mindfully on projects for clients without interruption.  The work gets my best attention and gets done more accurately.

This list is just a beginning as I am sure there are many more ways to really be present while working for a client online and ways that working this way becomes an advantage for clients.  Please share your ideas in the comment section below.

Just this weekend, I was delighted by the term “flexistentialism” in article in the Times Online,  The Rise of the Virtual Workspace.  After the article on the employment trend of the growing number of workers who telecommute, the term is defined as the “new work/life balance.”  The article contains many pithy terms and I laughed out loud when I read that one of the advantages of the new virtual workspace is “no more physical spam (constant colleague interruptions).”  Having worked in many offices and educational institutions, I know exactly what that means and how it can affect my productivity.  It’s not strictly true that there are no interruptions on the home office front as now my personal life is right there and can become a potential new source of interruptions and distractions, if I were to let it.  It can be challenging to work at home while my son is home from school, as no matter how many times I explain to him about work and life boundaries and the importance of pretending I am not there because I have to work now…Really,  I am there.  A virtual mom is not an option in his six-year-old eyes.  So I work around his schedule and find the uninterrupted time I need to get my projects done in my role as an online office manager (also known as a virtual assistant or VA).

According the Times Online article, a VA is “your virtual assistant, who picks up calls, checks e-mails and irons out contracts from home.”  VAs can do that and a whole lot more for businesses.  It’s an unfortunate term as even though the industry is at least 20 years old, many people have still not heard of virtual assistants.  That would be the nature of being virtual or “not physically existing as such but made by computer to appear do so.”  Huh?  I may not be physically present in my clients’ offices but I am a real person, connected to my clients’ workspace by the Internet and phone.  An “online assistant” might have been a better title although explaining the range of what an assistant can do for a business can also be a challenge.  If only I could get away with the term “digital bohemian.”  Would not appeal much to clients but might make me feel more liberated as I tackle my workload for my clients and my own business!

I’ve also seen the term “crowdsourcing” which means sending jobs to the best of the “crowd” competing for the work. Outsourcing really, but by dropping the “out,” the term is supposedly less threatening.  “Out” means less work or jobs for those who are “in.”  It’s not really a new concept as freelancers and consultants have been working as subcontractors for businesses before the digital workspace revolution.  The technology of connecting people to their work and other workers, whether they be the boss or the client or co-workers or colleagues, is what has changed or improved.  We are making new words to describe the nuances of the social consequences in the work and home space.  I’ll be enjoying my front row, virtual seat and continuing to look for new terms for the new workspace.

Who has time to do add something new to the to-do list?  Artist, teacher, and entrepreneur Nancy Willis was understandably reluctant to start blogging or take on any social media beyond Facebook.  Her weeks are already full with her class schedule at Napa Valley Community College, workshops at Nimbus Arts, an active studio practice, and catering gigs to keep it all going.  Like many entrepreneurs, she is too busy doing the work and needs some help running the business, in this case, with marketing.  Of course, being her friend and an online office manager, I recommended hiring a Virtual Assistant!  Short of that option, I have been keeping an eye out for some DIY solutions that would not add anything to her workload but make what she’s already doing work a little harder for her.

My first thought was a blog as Nancy keeps her friends updated with tales of her studio progress, art residencies, and workshops by email already.  For example, just last month, she threw a dinner party for her friends which was professionally photographed for a future project.  Followers of Nancy’s work are familiar with this “dinner party” theme in her paintings and she continues to explore this idea in video paintings.  The photos were gorgeous and her telling of the evening enjoyable and had all the makings of a blog post.  But Nancy doesn’t have a blog.  She does have a website, a static page with some images of her paintings, but no time or know-how to keep it up to date with her offerings.  Most of us can relate that technology is tough to chase.  Nancy was not interested in taking on the task of blogging.

The next email from Nancy related her trip to Sundance as the featured artist and the bidding war that occurred over her painting.  Fascinating and fun stuff!  With her annual open studio sale coming up, this content needed to be out there on the web to stir up interest in her work beyond her already large circle of friends and admirers.  Her next email announcing her open studio and 2 simultaneous showings of her work at Napa wineries Mondavi and Hall came into my inbox and sat there.  Had it been a blog entry, it could have taken up residence on the web for browsers to find.  I wanted to tweet about it and announce to my Facebook friends that Nancy’s art was on display and would make a great weekend trip.  But none of this information was on her website so there was no place to send twitterers or my Facebook friends for more information or the details.  Does this sound familiar to any of my artist friends out there?

Meanwhile, I just learned about Posterous during a social media workshop here in the city.  Looks like all Nancy, or any artist or busy entrepreneur, needs to do is email photos and text which the site posts for an instant blog effect.  You can check it out for yourself at posterous.com (for the casual blogger).  This may be a great solution for someone like Nancy who has great things to say and the photos to back it up but no place to put it all on the Internet.  Our plan is to test-drive posterous this week with some photos from her first weekend of her open studio show.

Just about a year after I left a job to start my own business, I was stuck.  I could remember those first bright months when I was all potential and energy and had the confidence I needed to put up a website, print business cards, write a business plan, and expand my professional network.  I had plenty of ideas then and what I didn’t know, I knew how to learn.  It was exciting.

A year later, I was getting a little nervous that things weren’t turning out quite as planned.  I was working harder and harder and my plan had been to work smarter, not harder. As a virtual assistant, I offer that much to my clients. And here I was, putting in a full day with my son and staying up late to work on my business.   It was exhausting.

Something had to change.  I had to follow my own advice, to slow down and think about the business and to get some help doing that.  That’s when I started working with a mentor for Virtual Assistants.  My mentor’s own successful business was a great model and I was impressed by the way she laid out a program for our working together.  It was inspiring.

Honestly, I  didn’t think I would ever take her up on her offer of a 15-minute “burst” session but after a particularly trying week, I wondered “What am I waiting for?”  We sorted out what I was offering to clients, tasks, and what I really had to offer clients, more of a strategic partnership.  I also needed a little push past some procrastination on my part about buying a new computer before mine crashed.  What was I waiting for?  I dove in and took the time to get a new computer set-up, change my service offerings, and makeover my website.

I even reconsidered my pricing structure to better align with the new mindset proposed for me, that of a business owner rather than an employee.   Letting go of the old made more room for new ideas.  Now I am racing to keep up with them and making the changes that will bring me closer to success in my business!

Online workers need to take breaks too. And it’s not just the coffee that is needed to refresh and refuel you for the tasks ahead. Home office workers especially need to reach out and connect with others to reduce a sense of isolation that can be a drain on productivity. Chatting with co-workers off-topic (not about work) provides a pleasant connection with others and can keep you going. The popularity of social media such as Facebook will attest to this. It’s just fun to check in with your friends and colleagues now and then.

A colleague who works with a virtual team introduced me to the idea of “virtual coffee breaks.” She insists that members of her team check in personally with one another just to make that connection that will build a stronger working relationship. After all, even though we are working virtually we are still real and complex beyond our online presence. A virtual coffee break can also be a convenient alternative to getting together over coffee when schedules collide. Taking breaks from work is so important to maintaining a healthy level of productivity yet so many of us power on through until we run out of steam. Checking in with another on a regular basis can help us integrate regular breaks into our workflow, bringing a better balance into our work and life.

1. Ask

2. Receive

3. Give

A wise friend gave me the above advice.  I posted it by my computer and still I resisted because it just felt so uncomfortable and unnatural.  Didn’t I have to give first to receive?  And being self-sufficient, I wasn’t sure about asking for help at all.  Of course, I am strong because of being connected to other people: family, neighbors, colleagues, friends.   All of whom can and do help me.  How powerful it could be if I could harness this resource so that it’s available when I need it most.  All I would have to do is ask.

The first person I asked was a friend in business for herself.  How did she do it and why?  Then I asked a mentor, why couldn’t I do it too?  She referred me to an excellent resource located in my neighborhood, the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center.  They offer workshops and classes for small businesses or those who were thinking about starting one.  Under their guidance, I started asking for more help.  I asked friends for their business and referrals.  I asked my family for a loan.  I asked colleagues for advice and feedback as I developed my website.  The help I have received has been incredible!    I am so grateful.  Maybe the third item on the list could be interpreted as give thanks as well as give of yourself.  Thank you everyone.